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Superintendent Clarifies Reasons for Investigation Request to IG


BRADENTON – At Tuesday's regular meeting of the Manatee County School Board, Superintendent Rick Mills addressed the written requests sent last week to the Florida DOE Inspector General for further investigation into the actions of past leadership. 

Mills advised during his remarks that he and Board Chair Julie Aranibar had decided to write two separate letters to Mike Blackburn due to new examples "of faulty financial conduct, errors, neglect and incompetence (found) more than a year after a forensic financial audit was performed."  

He said that the letters were written after he and Aranibar had asked State Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart for support in making the request. In turn and as noted in his letter, Stewart recommended that a request for an investigation be formally written to Blackburn.

Mills reported that in response to the letters, he would have a scheduled meeting with the Inspector General on Wednesday afternoon. 

In addition to discussing the request for an investigation into past senior leadership, Mills will also ask Blackburn to investigate possible misconduct of board members serving from 2010-2012. That request was decided upon after Board Member Bob Gause made a motion at the end of the meeting to authorize Mills to do so, which was seconded by Karen Carpenter and passed unanimously by the board.

The superintendent went on to re-iterate some of the reasons for the request included in his letter. He included what he called the shock expressed by members of the joint legislative auditing commitee after learning of the auditor general's findings in his Operations Report of the district, which were included in the CAFR Report that the board approved at the meeting.

He also mentioned "the call from teachers, other district employees, parents and community members wanting to know who is ultimately accountable for the financial mismanagement of this school district."

"As I stated in my letter to the Inspector General, certainly this is a reasonable question," Mills said.

Mills also mentioned reactions he advised he had heard from some in the community who questioned the timing of the letters. Mills said, "I've heard it suggested that this request was made to 'distract from the dysfunction of the school board.'" 

In his later remarks, Mills went on to defend the state and actions of the current board and his senior leadership team, sometimes sounding emotional. He named off several accomplishments made in the past couple years, including the board's recent and invigorated commitment to transparency and praising the hirings of the district's new internal auditing firm and board attorney.

"It may be my opinion, but that does not sound like the resume of a 'dysfunctional' school board," the superintendent said.


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